Return to Mountain Mother[1] by Jeanne F. Neath

Mountain Mother, I hear you calling me.
Mountain Mother, we hear your cry.
Mountain Mother, we have come back to you.
Mountain Mother, we hear your sigh.

Lyrics by Carol P. Christ [2]. Sung to the tune of “Ancient Mother.” (origin unknown)

What do a bunch of feminist women do while riding a tour bus around the Mediterranean island of Crete? If they are on the Goddess Pilgrimage started by Carol Christ and continued by Laura Shannon, they sing songs honoring the Goddess. The song that drew me most from the first time I heard it on the fall 2022 Goddess Pilgrimage was “Mountain Mother.” Not surprising since the rocky, sparsely vegetated, yet hauntingly beautiful mountains of Crete surrounded us much of the time as our trusty bus wound its way up and down and around the island.

Continue reading “Return to Mountain Mother[1] by Jeanne F. Neath”

Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete – Reborn! by Laura Shannon

Thirty years ago, Carol P. Christ founded her Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, which she wrote about in her book A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess (original 1995 title Odyssey with the Goddess) and in numerous posts on this site over the years. She led over 40 groups of women Pilgrims to encounter the history and sacred sites of the peaceful, egalitarian civilisation of Bronze Age Crete. 

Here, the Goddess-honouring culture of Old Europe survived the longest, when patriarchal Indo-Europeans were taking over in the ‘Kurgan waves’ Marija Gimbutas has described. The sophisticated artworks of ‘Minoan’ Crete show women in positions of honour and authority, and do not depict violence, slavery, or war. People celebrated at ceremonial centres, made offerings at cave and mountain shrines, and worshipped the Goddess in sacred trees and stones.

Snake Goddess, Knossos, Crete, ca. 1600 BCE [photo: Heraklion Archaeological Museum]

As many readers know, before Carol passed away, she asked me to take on the leadership of her Goddess Pilgrimage, and to serve as her literary executor and the director of her Ariadne Institute for the Study of Myth and Ritual. Deeply moved by her trust in me, and guided by very clear dreams I received around the time of her death, I accepted Carol’s request. In October 2022, after a three-year delay due to the pandemic, the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete was reborn. 

Continue reading “Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete – Reborn! by Laura Shannon”

A Celtic Pilgrimage: Becoming a Bard by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

Trelawney at the moment of initiation. (Photo credit Greg Martin/Cornwall Live)

As I gazed up at Grand Bard Mab Stenak Veur, I could feel my eyes shining with joy, my gratitude, awe, love, and reverence for Kernow thrumming through me like the crescendo of a bright, glorious song. My whole world focused in that moment to the feel of his hands clasping mine — as though all Kernow were embracing me and holding me; the sight of his kind eyes and gentle smile— as though Kernow were lighting beacons to greet my homecoming; the sound of his voice proclaiming my new name, “Bleydh Ow Resek,”— as though Kernow herself were naming me to be her own child, come home at long last to my mother, who longs for me even as deeply and powerfully as I have always longed for her.

While I started learning Kernewek only four years ago, my journey to Bardhood started much earlier. I believe it began at birth, when my parents gave me the Christian name Trelawney, after the revered Cornish rebel leader who stood up against English oppression. Though no one in New England had heard of Kernow (Cornwall), my family’s joyful pride in our Cornish identity shaped my life. We were taught how my grandfather Jack left Kernow as a child because his parents responded to the call for more Methodist pastors to come to the United States.

Continue reading “A Celtic Pilgrimage: Becoming a Bard by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

Remembering Carol P. Christ: Online Memorial Gathering, December 20, 2021

Dear FAR community,

It’s been wonderful to read so many posts remembering Carol Christ. The FAR community was so important to Carol: as has been pointed out, she not only offered her own posts each Monday, she also read and responded to every post, every day. Through the FAR ‘family’ I feel comforted by connecting with others who knew and loved her and miss her as as I do.

Online Memorial Gathering On December 20, Carol’s birthday, all friends of Carol and friends of FAR are warmly invited to an online Memorial Gathering and ritual in Carol’s honour. Many of Carol’s friends will share cherished memories (please email me if you would like to say a few words) and I will show some photographs from her personal archive. (If you have photos of Carol you would like to share, please email them to me at We’ll also talk about the future of Carol’s Goddess Pilgrimage in Crete. Please register with your email address at this link.

Continue reading “Remembering Carol P. Christ: Online Memorial Gathering, December 20, 2021”

Me and Brother Francesco by Rachel Hollander

At the age of nine, I was taken to see the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon. It is a gorgeous film about the early life – and spiritual revelation – of Saint Francis of Assisi, or as I like to call him: Brother Francesco. As the final credits rolled, that first time seeing it, I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. My Mom asked me what was wrong, and all I could say was, “I want to go be with him, I belong with him.” Her response was predictable: 1. I was Jewish. 2. He was dead. 3. I was a girl!

From that moment, though, I knew that in some past life I must have walked with Brother Francesco. I felt such a powerful kinship with him, with his connection to Spirit, with his rejection of “traditional religion” (and all its limitations and rules and exclusionary practices), and with his sense of Oneness with all beings, human and animal. He was always much more to me than “the patron saint of animals.” He heard a clear message from God/Spirit and listened to it, without question. And this listening brought him peace and purpose.  Continue reading “Me and Brother Francesco by Rachel Hollander”

The Modern Problematic Nature of the Sabarimala Temple, Part 2 by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

AnjeanetteThe Sabarimala Temple has received an influx of global attention since last October. In my last FAR post, I researched the origin story of the Sabarimala Temple and its dedicated deity, Ayyappan. Ayyappan’s unusual parentage and chosen attributes and patronage made him adverse to all forms of sexual activity and more importantly, not very keen in having female devotees.

Ayyappan, also known as Dharmasastha, is devoted to protecting the dharma, living a yogic life, and more importantly, a celibate life. Ayyappan demands that all his followers when undertaking his pilgrimage, take a vow of celibacy for the duration. No form of sexual impurity must enter Ayyappan’s Sabarimala temple. This is where the problematic elements really start to come to head. Due to the restriction of sexual impurities, females from the age of 10-50 are denied access, as their very biological state of being female, makes them sexually impure. Their ability to menstruate makes them vessels of this apparent sexual impurity that the god Ayyappan does not want. Continue reading “The Modern Problematic Nature of the Sabarimala Temple, Part 2 by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Part One: The God Ayyappan and The Sabarimala Temple by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

AnjeanetteThe Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, India has been recently thrown into the news. It has made world news due to the two centuries long tradition of denying females from the age of 10-50 entrance into the Temple. As of September 2018, the Indian Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing women entrance into the Temple. Needless to say, this ruling was met by both large numbers of supporters and protestors.  But what makes the Sabarimala Temple so controversial?

Continue reading “Part One: The God Ayyappan and The Sabarimala Temple by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Goddess Pilgrimage: A Sacred Journey for Women by Carol P. Christ

A pilgrim leaves home and sets off on a journey, seeking healing, revelation, and direction in her life. She finds companions along the way whose stories reflect her own, validating her quest and shedding light on her journey. According to anthropologists Victor Turner and Edith Turner, pilgrimages have common structural elements. A pilgrim separates from family and friends, work and obligations. She steps across a threshold into “liminal space” in which daily routines are suspended, opening herself to discovering new ways of being and living.

For spiritual pilgrims, the goal is a place or places said by others to be a “sacred” because healing or revelation have occurred there through the intervention of a deity, a saint, or spirits. The place is often on a mountain, in a cave, or near a spring. Along the way, pilgrims meet and share stories as in the Canterbury Tales. Some pilgrims say that the experience of sharing community with other seekers is as important as the revelation gained at the destination. When the pilgrim returns home, she must re-integrate into the community she left behind or find a new one. Continue reading “Goddess Pilgrimage: A Sacred Journey for Women by Carol P. Christ”

Home: A New Pesach Reflection by Ivy Helman

In ancient times, Pesach was one of three pilgrimage holidays, the others being Sukkot and Shavuot.  According to the the Torah, Israelite men were required to travel to Jerusalem to bring offerings to the temple. Supposedly, this reconnected these Israelites to their religion, to each other and to the deity.  Participating in these pilgrimages brought about a deeper sense of community. In short, three times a year, Jerusalem became a home away from home.

What an interesting and quite awful definition of home: a male-only community focused on slaughtering animals to atone for sins.  Did ancient Israelites think that this religious obligation actually created a better home than where they lived most of the year? Or, was it just a religious obligation?  Did anyone bemoan the massacre of the animals?  In a related fashion, was Pesach alienating for women and children? Did the ancient Israelite home become less important during these festivals? Did women and children feel left out of their own religious traditions if they didn’t live in Jerusalem?  What did they do for Pesach?  Continue reading “Home: A New Pesach Reflection by Ivy Helman”

Sacred Water by Molly Remer

“Drinking the water, I thought how earth and sky are generous with their gifts and how good it is to receive them. Most of us are taught, somehow, about giving and accepting human gifts, but not about opening ourselves and our bodies to welcome the sun, the land, the visions of sky and dreaming, not about standing in the rain ecstatic with what is offered.”

–Linda Hogan in Sisters of the Earth

The women have gathered in a large open living room, under high ceilings and banisters draped with goddess tapestries, their faces are turned towards me, waiting expectantly. We are here for our first overnight Red Tent Retreat, our women’s circle’s second only overnight ceremony in ten years. We are preparing to go on a pilgrimage. I tell them a synopsis version of Inanna’s descent into the underworld, her passage through seven gates and the requirement that at each gate she lie down something of herself, to give up or sacrifice something she holds dear, until she arrives naked and shaking in the depths of the underworld, with nothing left to offer, but her life.

In our own lives, I explain, we face Innana’s descents of our own. They may be as difficult as the death of an adult child, the loss of a baby, the diagnosis of significant illness, or a destroyed relationship. They may be as beautiful and yet soul-wrenchingly difficult as journeying through childbirth and walking through the underworld of postpartum with our newborns. They may be as seemingly every day as returning to school after a long absence. There is value in seeing our lives through this mythopoetic lens. When we story our realities, we find a connection to the experiences and courage of others, we find a pattern of our own lives, and we find a strength of purpose to go on. Continue reading “Sacred Water by Molly Remer”

Our Ladies of Sea, Earth, and Sky by Joyce Zonana

Sara and the Marys
Sainte Sara encompassing Sainte Marie-Salome and Sainte Marie-Jacobe

O Sainte Marie-Jacobe, priez pour nous.

O Sainte Marie-Salome, priez pour nous.

O gardeures de la Provence, priez pour nous.

The priest intoned the words in deep, liquid accents, his voice echoing from the ancient stone church in the remote village of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in the Camargue region of Southern France, where the waters of the Rhone River meet the Mediterranean Sea in a wild, wide, flat expanse populated by black bulls, pink flamingos, and white horses.

“O, Saint Mary-Jacobe, pray for us.”
“O, Saint Mary-Salome, pray for us.”
“O, guardians of the gates of Provence, pray for us.”

I could feel the words resonating through me, bringing sudden, hot tears. The people gathered in the small village square repeated the priest’s chant, their voices rising above the low, white-washed houses into the sunlit sky, out towards the shimmering sea where legend tells us the two Marys had drifted two thousand years ago in a boat without rudder or sail.

Continue reading “Our Ladies of Sea, Earth, and Sky by Joyce Zonana”

Lucy Pick’s Pilgrimage by Mary Sharratt

mary sharrattIn medieval Europe, religious devotion provided an alternate narrative for women’s lives in a male-dominated culture. Defiant women who stood up for themselves in the face of rape, incest, and murder were hailed as virgin martyrs. Religious vocations, such as becoming a nun or a beguine, provided a viable and esteemed alternative to forced marriage.

Even women who were married with children could escape their domestic entanglements and conjugal duties by taking an oath of celibacy as 15th century English mystic Margery Kempe did, leaving behind her husband and 14 children to go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Rome, and Jerusalem. Her Book of Margery Kempe, the tale of her travels, reads like a kind of late medieval Eat, Pray, Love and is the first autobiography written in the English language.

Though it might seem surprising to us today, women of the European Middle Ages possessed more rights and freedoms than their descendants in the Renaissance, Early Modern, and Victorian ages. Women worked as craftspeople and artisans and were members of the guilds, alongside men. Monarchs such as Eleanor of Aquitaine were global power brokers while religious leaders such as Hildegard von Bingen devoted their lives to intellectual and artistic pursuits, composing music and writing weighty philosophical and theological books that are still being discussed today.

lucy pick pilgrimageThe cover of academic historian Lucy Pick’s novel Pilgrimage shows details from a painted altarpiece dedicated to Saint Godeleva. A victim of forced marriage who was strangled by order of her husband, this legendary saint was a patron of abused wives. Lucy Pick’s novel concerns the saint’s daughter, the blind Gebirga of Gistel in Flanders. What would it be like to be the daughter of a martyred saint whose miracles cured everyone except you?

Considered unmarriageable due to her blindness, Gebirga rejects life as a nun in an abbey dedicated to her sainted mother. Instead, in a bid for freedom, she embarks on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in faraway Iberia, an epic journey for that time. She serves as the companion to a highly strung teenage noblewoman and is charged with delivering the girl to the Spanish king she is contracted to marry. During their travels, Gebirga must use all her intelligence and resourcefulness to protect herself and her young charge from the considerable dangers and political intrigues they face on their way. Though they encounter hardship and heartbreak, this is a pilgrimage of miracles, healing, and redemption.

Lucy Pick, the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, has infused her novel with impeccable research into the lives of medieval women. This novel is a medievalist’s delight and fans of the late Margaret Frazer will devour this book.

Mary Sharratt’s book Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen, won the 2013 Nautilus Gold Award, Better Books for a Better World. Her forthcoming novel, The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse, tells the tale of the groundbreaking Renaissance women poet Aemilia Bassano Lanier and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2016. Visit Mary’s website.


The Pilgrimage We Need Is Not To Mecca by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

PilgrimageMany people have been writing about the Hajj from a critical perspective, telling Muslims it is a time to reflect seriously and deeply about what is happening there in Saudi Arabia with our sacred places and rituals. I am here to add my two cents to that fountain but also, to say that the Hajj we need is not in Mecca.

Even when the season of Hajj is over, it is never too late to ponder the idea that Islam is a spiritual path that encourages a way of life based on reflection, responsibility and ethical decisions. The Qur’an encourages believers through many verses to reflect on the reality surrounding the way of life and on our role in it like in 29:43, 30:21, & 30:22. Among the things Muslims should reflect on and take action concerning are firm opposition to oppression and raising their voices against injustice. That is the call of Allah  in 57:25, 4:76, 4:135, 5:8, for example.

We all know what happens in Saudi Arabia. So, I wonder, if we believe the word of Allah is true: why do some of us, declaring ourselves believers, continue to fuel the arrogance, injustice and oppression of the usurpers of our Faith? Why are we still funding the oppression occurring in Saudi Arabia with performing the Hajj? Are you naive or sheep-minded or unwilling to take responsibility for the role you play in the maintenance of oppression in the name of Islam?

You pay thousands of dollars to the Saudis for the Hajj, and with that you finance a million dollar business that has nothing spiritual or halal .. yes, hear me well: HAS NOTHING HALAL ABOUT IT! Then at the Mosque, Mussala or Derga you are shocked that the Saudis invaded Yemen to kill Muslims, make deals with Zionism, leave thousands of people to die at sea without giving them shelter, torture dissidents and activists and treat women like animals.  After all of that, why do you complain if you don´t have the courage to act as prescribed by the Quran and oppose injustice? Instead you fund oppression and become part of the problem. You are an oppressor by omission and payment via PayPal or Visa! Continue reading “The Pilgrimage We Need Is Not To Mecca by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Bringing Back the Boon: Life After Pilgrimage by Kate Brunner

Kate BrunnerI made it. Last month, I actually made it from Australia to Wales and back on an official Sisterhood of Avalon/Mythic Seeker Pilgrimage called The Priestess and the Healer. I also overnighted in Brisbane, passed through the Netherlands for a couple of days to see an old friend, and even managed to squeeze in a day trip to Glastonbury, England, in addition to my itinerary that had me trekking all over Wales. But all of it- every stop- turned out to be an integral part of my Pilgrimage experience. Much more so than I could have predicted when I first set out. And now I’m back. Back home with my children and my partner. Back at work with my writing. Back to chores, bills, & daily rounds where life is bright, loud, and busy– even as it is joyful & beautiful. What now, then? While the life I’ve returned to is virtually unchanged, something has subtly shifted under my feet in the fortnight it took me to tread those distant lands.

Traveling is always a great learning experience for me, but a mindfully undertaken Pilgrimage is a different creature than a casual holiday. In his fantastic work, The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau breaks down the pilgrim’s journey into phases: the Call, the Departure, the Arrival, & the Return. He relates this journey to the walking of a labyrinth, something Dr. Lauren Artress also explores at length in her book, Walking a Sacred Path. My experience resonates strongly with this metaphor. In retrospect, I can indeed pinpoint the moment of Arrival. (I sat down to eat a nourishing meal at a long, wooden table full of fellow Avalonian pilgrims in front of a window looking out on a late summer sunset in Dyffryn Nantlle.) The realization of that moment, small and simple as is was, shifted and opened my experience even deeper. The ritual of a labyrinth within  a physical Pilgrimage is a special encounter. Those who manage to carve out the resources to engage in it undergo an intense experience, whatever their spiritual tradition or destination. But what happens when it’s over? What comes next? This is where I am left now. Continue reading “Bringing Back the Boon: Life After Pilgrimage by Kate Brunner”

Expanding the Cycle of Pilgrimage by Kate Brunner

Kate BrunnerAt the beginning of this year, I mapped out my assorted travel plans for 2014. We expected to be living in Australia through the end of the year, so I committed myself to the Sisterhood of Avalon’s August pilgrimage through Wales. Once the paperwork was done and my deposit paid, I focused on more immediate ventures during the first quarter of the year, intending to engage in more mindful preparation later on.

Just after the full moon lunar eclipse in April, we got word that our assignment here in this corner of Australia would end, not in November or December as we were previously told, but in mid-July, instead. It’s been increasingly chaotic since then. While we worked from that point on, pursuing every available job lead, we are still- less than one month out- unsure of what our future holds.

Meanwhile, that future continues to rush to greet us. Whatever it may be. Continue reading “Expanding the Cycle of Pilgrimage by Kate Brunner”

Coming Together to Honor the Mother by Carol P. Christ

petra churchcarol-christFrom the evening of the 14th through the day and night of the 15th of August, thousands of pilgrims ascended the Holy Rock of Petra to honor the Panagia—She Who Is All Holy. 

There is “something really beautiful”* in being among them.

Six of us set out from Molivos at 7:30 on the 14th to meet in the square of Petra to ascend to the church.  Petra was already full of so many pilgrims that police had forbidden traffic in the main square and were directing cars into a nearly full parking lot in a field.  When we got out of the car, the two others who came with me and I had a perfect view of the steady stream of pilgrims climbing the rock, which was already lit up in the twilight.

When we found the others, I said that we would climb to the church on the top of the rock where we would light candles and approach the icon of the Panagia to silently pray or express a wish for the coming year.   The others followed me through the square into the winding streets lined with stalls and gypsy beggars to the bottom of the rock.  While we waited for our turn, we saw the sign advising pilgrims of proper dress (read carefully).


Continue reading “Coming Together to Honor the Mother by Carol P. Christ”

Why a Goddess Pilgrimage? by Carol P. Christ

What is a Goddess Pilgrimage and why are so many US, Canadian, and Australian women making pilgrimages to ancient holy places in Europe and Asia?  The simple answer is that women are seeking to connect themselves to sources of female spiritual power that they do not find at home.

Traditionally pilgrims leave home in order to journey to a place associated with spiritual power.  “Leaving home” means leaving familiar physical spaces, interrupting the routines of work and daily life, and leaving friends and family behind.  For the pilgrim, “home” is a place that has provided both comfort and a degree of discomfort that provokes the desire to embark on a journey.  The space of pilgrimage is a “liminal” or threshold space in which the supports systems of ordinary life are suspended, as Victor Turner said.  A pilgrim chooses to leave the familiar behind in order to open herself to the unfamiliar—in hopes that she will return with new insight into the meaning of her life.  Continue reading “Why a Goddess Pilgrimage? by Carol P. Christ”

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